WHAT will Africa be like in 2050 when we complete the first half of this century dubbed the African century? Whose business is it or should be to shape Africa’s future?
Changing what our future looks like ought to be the business of our generation and yet as each day passes, we look to others to do what we can and should do in our interest to make tomorrow a better and brighter day for all. We hope and trust others to do what we are not willing to do in our own self-interest to make the difference that we want to see in Africa.
During the colonial era, we all know what was wrong and what time it was. We are now in control and yet the invasion of Africa by outsiders who see more promise in its relatively unexplored and yet to be exploited belly than its majority inhabitants suggests that in 2050, it is not unimaginable that the Chinese investors of today, for example, will be given marching orders by the living generation of Africans who will find cause to blame the foreigners for their lack of progress.
When the generation of 2050 looks back at our generation, what will they say about us? We have the privilege of writing our own story through actions and yet in many African states the preoccupation is on political issues rather than matters that inspire others to scale the heights of progress.
Imagine the future without your input. That future should have no relevance to you and yet many of us would want to be alive without asking ourselves what precisely is the purpose of life if at the end of the day we make no difference to the environment we live in.
Is the future someone else’s business? It is and should the business to all who have a stake in it. That makes all of us stakeholders.
On January 7, 2011, I woke up imagining what the future holds for Africa. As a Zimbabwe-born African, I could only start by imagining what my motherland will look like in 2050.
Will it be a country dominated by indigenous persons? What would the mining sector look like? What would be the ownership structure of land? Who will be the drivers of economic and political change? Will the current political institutions be still alive in 2050 or will they sink into followers than drivers as UNIP and Malawi Congress Party have done in Zambia and Malawi, respectively? Who will control the economic landscape? Will the brain drain be converted into a resident brain trust? What would be the state of Zimbabwean schools, hospitals, roads, prisons and all the institutions we generally associate with progress and civilisation?
In the case of Zimbabwe, the last 30 years of independence has produced a toxic mind that regards politics as the key driver of change. It is not uncommon for people to refer to others as, for example, a Zanu PF or MDC person as if political parties are capable of owning people’s minds.
To the extent that political institutions and the individuals who drive them are accorded a different status in society, it is natural that many will look to politicians to drive the agenda for change.
What we do know is that the current players in the Zimbabwean political drama will all have expired in 2050 and yet it will be the case that people will seek to attribute the lack of development to the actions and choices of a few powerful people.
If one were to ask the question of who most inspires Africans, I have no doubt that the likely response will be the names of political actors. We forget that politicians are human beings like all of us. They are incapable of solving another person’s problems without the means being created by others. The political market produces intangible outputs.
Therefore, it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of political actors but we generally associate the impact of human development indicators to have a relationship with the actions and choices of politicians.
The behaviour of African politicians is no different from the universal behavior of political actors. Their business is to stay in power for as much as possible in as much as the business of an entrepreneur is to remain in business for a long time if not to eat into the market shares of competitors.
Any small-scale entrepreneur will tell you that his/her ambition is to be the biggest and yet in pursuing such an objective, it must be accepted that the interests of others may be injured or destroyed in the process.
What will BRICSA mean to the rest of Africa? The emergence of the BRICSA grouping as a leading global player offers opportunities and threats to Africa’s future.
The BRIC countries are underpinned by a strong business sector with a national character and yet the key drivers of South Africa, the only African state to be invited to join this prestigious group, are not drawn from the majority population.
When South Africa boasts of strong economic growth, such growth has yet to translate into a broad-based internalisation of benefits. In terms of control of the commanding heights of the economy, we know that in countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia, the control vests in nationals whose interests are an integral part of national interest.
The ruling class in South Africa, for example, is still preoccupied with the baggage of the past while the former perpetrators of economic injustice are now the global players with African origins.
The misalignment between politics and business is best exposed when you examine how many of South Africa’s key economic drivers of change are members of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
In the case of Zimbabwe, we have seen business and professional persons refusing to associate or even become part of the political process and yet are the most vocal critics of the few who chose to dedicate their lives to a mandate enshrined in the constitution by representing the aspirations of the voiceless poor.
Most of the ruling parties are denied the wisdom resident in professional and businesspersons’ minds because the status of political players has been sufficiently undermined by the general disdain and misunderstanding of the role envisaged in the constitution of political players.
In terms of funding, the political institutions that have no control of the state face a tough time in sustaining their operations.
I have no doubt that the majority of Africans will be inspired more by faith in 2050 than by their own political institutions. We have seen more being done in the name of faith than in the name of politicians.
How can the paradigm shift to make Africa a winning proposition? We all have work to do. We have to start focusing at what we can do to make Africa work better for our future generations rather than what politicians have not done.
Imagine Africa in 2050. If you can imagine it, then you can make Africa what you want it to be. Our heritage is rich and yet we rarely broaden our discovery to include the corporate legacy that has been created by the contribution of all including those born outside the continent but who decided to make Africa their home.
We all must look at ourselves as drivers of change. It is for this reason I feel judging by the people who choose to include me in their conversations that I have played my part in defining my generation.
Any knowledge I share with my generation will no doubt assist future generations in better understanding what was important to me as I woke up daily to invest in the business of life fully knowing that the future does not belong to me physically but will be shaped and informed by the things that I do in life.
If people gossip about you then you must know that you are alive. Even people who credit Zanu PF for my business success, in so doing undermining my own contribution to the process of economic and social change, confirm the thinking that anything good or that represents progress must have a political context. If this is true, the next 40 years will test our collective capacity to rise above the limitations imposed by our past.
The enterprise of nation building is highly dynamic in which the past pain or glory do not guarantee failure or success. Short-term expedient strategies will not work for Africa. We have to be concerned about where Africa will be in the next 20 or 40 years.
We have to carry the tradition of liberation and extend it to the economic emancipation. We have to build our own institutions to serve not just the needs of our generation but also the needs of future generations. The role of the state in any human civilisation cannot be to do what citizens can do for themselves.
Imagining the future ought to be our starting point than complaining about the past for there is nothing we can do to change what already has transpired. As I imagine in the quietness of my time, I hope to hear your own imagination. Those who choose to remain silent must remember that the future will never know what it is that occupied our minds and time.
Let us tell the story through conversations that focus on what is possible if we choose to work together. Rhodesia was an idea but Zimbabwe like Africa is an idea whose time has come. We are ultimately the change that we want to see.